COLUMBUS — Ohio State started the week with 15 consecutive wins and ended it with consecutive losses.
Now the third-ranked Buckeyes think it might be time to circle the wagons.
LaQuinton Ross scored 22 points, Amir Williams had 11 and Lenzelle Smith Jr. 10 but the Buckeyes watched No. 20 Iowa make all the big plays down the stretch of an 84-74 victory Sunday.
The loss followed the Buckeyes’ 72-68 defeat at No. 5 Michigan State on Tuesday night.
For players not accustomed to losing very often, this is a mini-crisis.
“The worst thing we can do is feel sorry for ourselves,” point guard Aaron Craft said. “We can’t keep this going. We have to find a way to pick ourselves up. No one’s going to do it for us. It’s the 12 players on the team and the coaches and that’s about it.”
The Buckeyes (15-2, 2-2 Big Ten) don’t have to look too far to see what went wrong.
After averaging 10.3 turnovers a game heading into the Michigan State game, they totaled 38 in those two painful losses. During one span in the final minutes against Iowa, where they had 17 turnovers, they handed the ball over without a shot five times on 11 possessions.
Coach Thad Matta is mystified by the turnaround on turnovers.
“I’ve got to figure that out,” he said, shaking his head. “”The biggest thing is getting our guys to understand you can’t let one mistake compound into another mistake. That’s kind of what happened to us today. We played some really good basketball — so did Iowa. They’re a great team. But it’s that consistency and understanding of what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how it needs to be done.”
Roy Devin Marble scored 22 points and Aaron White added 19 for the Hawkeyes, who ended the game on a 22-9 run.
The Buckeyes had a nine-point lead at one point in the second half.
After that evaporated, they led by three with under 6 minutes to play. For a team that was down by eight in the final minute and beat Notre Dame in regulation, and which scored 20 of the final 23 points of regulation to force overtime against Michigan State, it appeared the Buckeyes were right where they wanted to be.
But the Hawkeyes (14-3, 3-1) had other thoughts.
A free throw by Jarrod Uthoff and another by Marble cut the lead to a point before Uthoff scored consecutive baskets, both on layups. The second, at the 4:25 mark, put the Hawkeyes up 68-65.
Marble was fouled in the backcourt and hit both shots for a 70-65 Iowa lead with 3½ minutes remaining.
The Hawkeyes led by four when White — with 40 friends and family members making the two-hour drive from suburban Cleveland to root him on — had the ball tipped away. He recovered it beyond midcourt, and then drove to hit a 12-foot fallaway as the shot clock was running down with 2:06 left.
That made it 74-68 and Ohio State never made a serious threat again.
It was Iowa’s first win over a top 5 team since an 83-65 victory at No. 2 Missouri on Dec. 15, 2001.
Iowa was 0-2 on opponents’ home courts this season coming in. Their three losses have come against teams with a combined 45-2 record (Villanova, Iowa State and Wisconsin) — with each loss coming by five or fewer points.
The Hawkeyes had not beaten Ohio State — one of the Big Ten’s bullies since Matta came aboard a decade ago — since 2008. They hadn’t beaten the Buckeyes in Columbus since 2004, making a long, quiet flight home on the last seven trips.
Craft said this week’s losses were not connected in any way, other than the Buckeyes didn’t play well enough in either one.
“This is just not us,” he said.